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Israel Falsely Claimed Footage Showed Doll, Not Dead Child, Palestinian Journalist Says

This story contains a graphic image.

The Israeli government and many of its high-profile supporters have falsely claimed that Hamas published footage of a doll and suggested it was a child killed by Israel’s military, according to a Palestinian journalist who published the video.

“Hamas accidentally posted a video of a doll (yes a doll) suggesting that it was a part of casualties caused by an IDF attack,” Israel’s main Instagram page claimed Friday. That post received more than 52,000 “likes,” and a similar post from the country’s page on X, the site formerly known as Twitter, received more than 1.3 million views, according to both sites’ public-facing metrics.

Other social media accounts controlled by Israeli officials, including those for the Israeli embassies in France and Austria, have made similar claims.

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However, Momen El Halabi, the journalist who published the video on Oct. 12, says the footage did indeed show a dead child.

In messages to HuffPost, El Halabi said he filmed the scene himself, and that his footage showed “a child victim and not a puppet like the occupation claims.”

On Sunday, El Halabi posted an Instagram Story that included a link to the Jordan-based website Misbar, which had confirmed with him that the video showed a child’s body and not a doll. The post was written in Arabic and translated by HuffPost.

El Halabi separately told the Indian website Alt News that the child in the video was a 4-year-old boy named Omar Bilal Al-Banna who had been killed in the Al-Zaytoun neighborhood in Gaza City. Alt News published further footage and photos that it said El Halabi had provided to back up the claim. The video the Israeli government posted ― which they claimed had been published by Hamas ― included a watermark of El Halabi’s name.

Alt News pointed to photos from the Agence France-Presse photographer Mohammed Abed, published on the same day, that appeared to show the same child’s body outside the morgue of al-Shifa hospital, in Gaza City. One of those photos appears below.

Neither El Halabi nor the Israeli government returned HuffPost’s requests for comment. Abed directed HuffPost to an AFP corporate email address, which did not immediately respond to questions.

A photo by Agence France-Presse photographer Mohammed Abed shows a Palestinian man in Gaza City holding what appears to be a child wrapped in a shroud, Oct. 12, 2023. The website Alt News has cited the photo as evidence that contested footage posted last week by journalist Momen El Halabi is authentic.
A photo by Agence France-Presse photographer Mohammed Abed shows a Palestinian man in Gaza City holding what appears to be a child wrapped in a shroud, Oct. 12, 2023. The website Alt News has cited the photo as evidence that contested footage posted last week by journalist Momen El Halabi is authentic.

A photo by Agence France-Presse photographer Mohammed Abed shows a Palestinian man in Gaza City holding what appears to be a child wrapped in a shroud, Oct. 12, 2023. The website Alt News has cited the photo as evidence that contested footage posted last week by journalist Momen El Halabi is authentic.

More than 2,700 Gazans have been killed since Hamas launched a surprise military incursion in southern Israel on Oct. 7 and Israel responded with heavy airstrikes in Gaza, according to Palestinian health officials.

The claim that Hamas, the militant group with governing power in the Gaza Strip, had suggested that a doll was a dead child has spread across the internet since El Halabi posted the original footage on Thursday.

The next day, the Israeli activist Yoseph Haddad appeared to post the same footage on X, claiming, “It’s not a real baby; it’s a doll.” Haddad also claimed that his source for the footage was Hamas, and that Hamas had deleted the footage. But his video carried El Halabi’s watermark, and El Halabi has not deleted the footage. As of Monday afternoon, Haddad’s post had 3.7 million views.

Several other high-profile accounts ― including those of Israel War Room, the pro-Israel group StopAntisemitism, Israeli historian and journalist Edy Cohen, Saudi journalist Abdul Aziz Al-Khamis, Israeli author Hen Mazzig and Saudi-based Indian writer Zahack Tanvir ― all shared the same footage with El Halabi’s watermark, and all claimed that the footage showed a doll. Some referred in their posts to “Pallywood,” the concept that some footage of the deaths and injuries of Palestinian people is actually faked to engender sympathy.

Altogether, their posts received more than 5 million views, according to metrics on X.

StopAntisemitism told HuffPost in a statement, “We can’t comment further on the doll story.” And Tanvir told HuffPost that he’d seen the doll claim from a Saudi researcher. “[I] trust their research, not the journalist from Gaza, as Hamas has been infamous for such propaganda tactics,” added Tanvir, referring to El Halabi.

None of the other accounts responded to HuffPost’s request for comment on El Halabi’s assertion that the video shows a human child.

Brian Krassenstein, an X user with some 785,000 followers, published a post about the footage that declared “FAKE BABY CONFIRMED.” Krassenstein appears to have since removed that post. An archive of the post captured by Alt News shows that it received more than 3 million views.

Rowaida Abdelaziz contributed reporting. 

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